Two reviews to investigate Lawrence smear claims

 

Home Secretary Theresa May: "The Lawrence family experienced an unspeakable tragedy"

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Claims that police tried to smear murder victim Stephen Lawrence's family will be investigated by two existing inquiries, Theresa May has said.

The home secretary also told MPs there should be a "ruthless" purging of corruption from police ranks.

It comes after undercover officer Peter Francis said he was instructed in 1993 to find information that could discredit the Lawrence family.

Stephen's father, Neville, said "only a judge-led public inquiry will suffice".

Scotland Yard has refused to confirm or deny the claims made in the Guardian newspaper by Mr Francis.

'Unspeakable tragedy'

Black teenager Stephen, 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop in south-east London in April 1993.

A number of suspects were identified soon after the attack but it took more than 18 years to bring his killers to justice. An inquiry accused the police of institutional racism and found failings in how they had investigated the murder.

Former undercover officer Mr Francis told the Guardian and Channel 4's Dispatches programme that after Mr Lawrence's killing he posed as an anti-racism campaigner in a hunt for "disinformation" to use against those criticising the police.

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The allegation on the Guardian's website that officers at the Metropolitan Police wanted to smear Doreen and Neville Lawrence raises fresh questions about the appallingly botched original investigation.”

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Working as part of the Met's now-disbanded Special Demonstration Squad, which specialised in gathering intelligence on political activists, he said he had come under pressure to find "any intelligence that could have smeared the campaign" - including whether any of the family were political activists, involved in demonstrations or drug dealers.

Mr Francis, who used the name Peter Black while under cover, said the aim of his operation had been to ensure that the public "did not have as much sympathy for the Stephen Lawrence campaign" and to persuade "the media to start maybe tarring the campaign".

Mrs May said the Lawrence family had "experienced an unspeakable tragedy".

She continued: "Their pain was compounded by the many years in which justice was not done, and these allegations still coming 20 years after Stephen's murder only add to their suffering."

Any investigations should be "ruthless in purging" corruption and wrongdoing from police ranks, she said.

Barrister Mark Ellison QC - who successfully prosecuted Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen's murder in 2012 - is already examining police corruption during the original investigation into the killing.

Mrs May told the Commons that he would look at the latest allegations as well.

Neville Lawrence: "We need public inquiry led by a judge"

And they would also be looked at as part of Operation Herne, which is an investigation into undercover policing at the Metropolitan Police, being led by the chief constable of Derbyshire police, Mick Creedon.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is supervising some strands of Operation Herne.

Mrs May said: "Where the Creedon investigation finds evidence of criminal behaviour or misconduct by police officers, the IPCC will investigate and the officers will be brought to justice".

Neville Lawrence said the latest news had taken away the faith he had started to build in the police.

"It is unthinkable that in the extremely dark days and months after my son's murder that my family were subject to such scrutiny," he said in a statement.

"I understand that the home secretary has announced that she will extend the inquiries of Mark Ellison QC and Operation Herne, I would like to make it clear that I find this completely unsatisfactory.

"I have no confidence that the measures announced today will get to the bottom of this matter."

Stephen Lawrence murder

Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London in April 1993.

A number of suspects were identified soon after the attack but it took more than eighteen years to bring his killers to justice.

Several attempts to prosecute the suspects, including a private prosecution by the family, failed due to unreliable or insufficient evidence.

In 1997, then Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered a public inquiry into the killing and its aftermath after concerns about the way the police had handled the case.

Sir William Macpherson, a retired High Court judge, led the inquiry. He accused the police of institutional racism and found a number of failings in how they had investigated the murder.

In January 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of Stephen's murder by an Old Bailey jury after a review of the forensic evidence.

Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier he wanted to "get the full truth out" about the latest "horrific" allegations.

The IPCC said it was expecting to receive information from the Met in connection with the allegations "which may raise potential conduct matters" about officers from the Special Demonstration Squad.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "If these allegations are true, it's a disgrace, and the Metropolitan Police Service will apologise."

He added: "Smearing the family of a murder victim would never be acceptable to me or my officers".

'Really angry'

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: "At some point it will fall upon this generation of police leaders to account for the activities of our predecessors, but for the moment we must focus on getting to the truth."

The man who was in charge of the Met between 1993 and 2000, former commissioner Lord Condon, said he had had no knowledge of any campaign to smear the Lawrence family.

David Cameron: "Potentially the police that were meant to be helping them were actually undermining them"

"I can say categorically that at no time during my time as commissioner did I authorise or condone or was aware of the sort of smear operation that's been described in the Guardian," he said.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose responsibilities include oversight of the Met, said he had already spoken to current commissioner Sir Bernard about the claims and pledged to "leave absolutely no stone unturned".

Mr Lawrence's mother, Doreen Lawrence, said earlier that she was shocked and angry at Mr Francis's disclosure.

"Out of all the things I've found out over the years, this certainly has topped it," she said.

"It just makes me really, really angry that all of this has been going on and all the time trying to undermine us as a family."

Dispatches is broadcast on Channel 4 on Monday 24 June at 20:00 BST.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 348.

    What a load of crock......All politicians are corrupt, but who would through a concert for their dead son. If he was white it wouldn't be allowed....it would be racist....

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 347.

    An astounding story, but one that doesn't really surprise anyone alas. In the wake of this, the CQC's and HMRC's recent shenanigans etc, perhaps what's needed is a formal charter or convention for all public employees from top civil servants to beat cops. These people need to recognise they work for us, and when things go wrong they need to come clean promptly without cover-ups or other stupidity.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 346.

    Here we go again. While I have every sympathy with the family of Stephen Lawrence it makes me very uneasy to see the massive unending coverage this case gets.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 345.

    We know that the whole case was badly handled from start to finish and the Lawrence family treated appallingly. They do have my utmost sympathy. However, the cost of yet more investigations and muck raking does not justify any possible gains made from dragging the whole thing up again. Time to let this go.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 344.

    So, how much did the Grauniad and Dispatches programme pay this guy for his story? He's waited rather a long time to come forward with all this soul baring, hasn't he.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 343.

    The only reason the Police are being investigated are, Cameron currently has an axe to grind with them(mitchel,pensions,etc) and it didn't happen on his watch. The police are probably still running Ops like this at the behest of the Politicians in charge.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 342.

    Maybe if the police wheren't busy shutting down protestors outside the ecudorian embassy and ate less donuts, they could actually catch burglers and murders (real criminals).

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 341.

    QC appointed to investigate - great, how much will this cost once the legal profession have had their ounce of fat and any compensation paid?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 340.

    The met investigate themselves? The police have become a largely self serving organisation, much like the NHS, so don't expect too much in the way of any action. Possibly someone might be 'severely reprimanded', but that is about it. But be careful what you say on here, as we are all being tapped anyway!!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 339.

    Honestly, I get fed up with this type of news. The original case fell apart, it happens. The criminals later got arrested, job done. Now this is being dragged out even more. All this is doing is damaging the quality of the justice system by dragging more and more cash out of it. Nothing will change as the people currently in charge did nothing wrong. Stop wasting taxpayers money!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 338.

    #18 YES - Cameron visited South Africa in 1989 as a guest of the Apartheid Government as part of a "Young Conservatives" delegation and openly supported the Apartheid Regime as did many Young Conservatives of the time who branded (like their Leader at the time) NM as a terrorist.Thats not asinine it is a FACT!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 337.

    Comment 12. ...."t's disturbing that the Lawrence family can by-pass this and that a Prime Minister orders the fast-tracking of an investigation".

    This is a sick joke on your part, right? The Lawrence family have been trying already for more than 20 years to obtain the full justice that they still have not received!...

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 336.

    I only have one word to say - "Whatever!"

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 335.

    I think it's becoming obvious, and I have suspected for a decades that most people in positions of power are corrupt.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 334.

    170.FichtHeit

    "Remember: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

    Ah,bless.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 333.

    For all those that suggest the matter should be put to bed, due to the period of time involved, I would be fully in agreement, just as long as the Met Police weren't still pursuing the murderer of one of their own, PC Yvonne Fletcher. I'm also guessing the Police didn't try to smear the victim, or the victim's family in that case.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 332.

    All of those involved in this should be clearly identified and the question asked about whether they were acting outside the scope of their policing remit. If they were, then the government should attempt to recover the costs of this operation from them personally. I don't see why the general public, through taxes, should pay for junk like this.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 331.

    This happens all the time, we have an institutionally racist Police force and nothing has changed. I made a disclosure that led to 30 arrests. The gauntlet I had to run through would have broken some people. I am still shocked by what passes for justice if you come from an ethnic background. Whats more I have no confidence in the PCC, it is just part of the system that is rotten to the core.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 330.

    Surely the greatest problem in society today is that every single office of so called responsibility is inhabited by someone very well connected.

    Don't these people get it?

    Nigel Farage is NOT popular because of UKIP's policy's. He is popular because, freed up from ever wanting to be PM, he is saying what all these 'well connected' people never say - for fear of upsetting their connections

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 329.

    "Boycemeister
    Erm... they did. Two people were convicted of the murder in 2012"

    Only after private prosecutions had been brought as the police and DPP failed to build a strong enough case and the removal of double jeopardy protections from all of us enabled a second trial to eventually een brought. Had the MET investigated properly to begin with justice would have been thorough and swift.

 

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